PLASTIC FREE MONTH
As part of S.I. Bayside’s Environmental Project “Lighting the Way”, members have commited to reducing their ecological footprint, one habit at a time. The focus for the month of March is our use and abuse of disposable plastics. We have devised a system to be more aware of, and monitor, our use and abuse of plastics. There is a format - a digital fillable pdf form - that can be completed to take you through the process. If participants forward this record at the end of the month, we can collate and record our collective efforts, evaluate our successes and plan for the future. Please join us in our attempt to reduce the impact of plastic litter on our environment and eliminate our dependence on single use, disposable plastics. Forms can be requested from
Read on to find out why this is important and what you can do personally. The strategies are simple.
REFUSE - Say no to disposable plastic
REDUCE - Find alternatives
REUSE - Don’t simply dispose
RECYCLE - Find outlets for recycling bags
REMOVE - plastic litter from the environment.
The use and misuse of disposable of plastic containers is not only a profligate use of diminishing and non-renewable resources, it is a massive environmental problem.
The main problem with plastic - beside there being so much of it - is that it doesn't bio-degrade. No natural processes can break it down. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces (called mermaid tears or nurdles) and accumulates in the environment. Our dependence on disposable plastics for food and drink packaging has added significantly to environmental pollution, especially in our oceans.
- Make sure you dispose of all plastics appropriately, even the smaller items like lids and straws.
- Pick up plastic (and other) litter wherever you see it and dispose of it properly, recycling when possible. Make a habit of carrying a rubbish bag with you on your walks or outings.
A litter_survey tally form can be downloaded or will be forwarded on request from
PLASTIC BAGS - SOME FACTS & FIGURES
More at http://www.noplasticbags.org.au/plasticBags .
The average plastic bag is used for only 5
minutes, yet can take up to 1,000 years to
break down in the environment.
- Australians use over 10 million plastic bags a
Australians throw away about 7,150
recyclable plastic bags a minute, with
429,000 recyclable plastic supermarket bags
dumped in landfill every hour.
- Reuse the plastic bags needed for purchasing and storing food such as vegetables and fruit. Take a supply with you when you shop rather than using new ones all the time.
- Recycle plastic bags at the end of their useful life. There are bins outside many supermarkets.
- Refuse plastic bags when you shop, even for meats and coldstuffs. You can always wash your shopping bags if there is spillage.
- Try replacing your collection of plastic bags with biodegradable ones, use and reuse them and then compost them at the end of their useful life.
- Try fining yourself each time you forget and donate the money to "Lighting the Way".
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLASTICS
all plastics can be recycled. Different plastics have to be separated and
treated differently in the recycling process. That is the reason plastics have a number inside the recycle symbol. Many plastic items are recyclable and are labelled as such. However, recycling of certain types of plastics eg. styrofoam, plastic wrapping around new electrical goods, post-packs, can not be dealt with by local councils. Inclusion of these in your recycle bin can lead to an entire load being dumped as contaminated. There are specialist tips and recycling plants for some of these items, but they deal mainly with businesses and charge for their services. Councils issue information about
which types can be recycled in their system. Find out more at the Brisbane City
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEGRADABLE PLASTICS
- Make sure you know what can and can't be recycled through your recycle bin and your local tip. Only include those to avoid contamination of loads.
- Avoid buying food in non-recyclable plastic containers.
- Reuse plastic containers, even disposable ones, before recycling.
Degradable plastics are still made from fossil fuels. They simply have additives that allow them to break down (into very small pieces) over time by the action of heat or exposure to UV light. A major disadvantage is that they will not break down in the presence of moisture. That means they are not suitable for composting and are still a threat to the marine environment. Biodegradable plastics are made from plant and animal sources. Exposed to micro-organisms, moisture, UV and oxygen, they break down they enter the normal organic cycling of nature. Many break down rapidly under the right conditions and are compostable. This is indeed preferable. However, they must be disposed of in the right conditions. In normal landfill, they break down very slowly, releasing methane a major greenhouse gas and a fire hazard.
THERE ARE SOLUTIONS BUT NO SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
Degradable plastics are useful if disposed of carefully. They degrade in landfill conditions (often still over years not weeks). You must be able to guarantee that they will go directly to the tip. They are light sensitive and can lack the strength which is plastic's advantage if exposed to light and heat while still in use. There is some debate as to whether they can effectively be recycled. Importantly, degradable plastics that land in the ocean or water sources will not break down so they are still a problem if they become litter. Biodegradable plastic containers and bags must also be disposed of appropriately. There are some large, professionally run composting tips which provide compost commercially, but most people pay for rubbish disposal as part of their rates. If you have an active composting system, compostable bags are obviously the way to go.
- Become aware of the variety of plastics and be careful about their disposal.
- Try to find creative solutions to reduce dependency on single use plastic items. There are even environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable nappies. Often the alternatives are more expensive.
- Share you ideas and experiences with others.